There’s been a lot of buzz about 1:1 learning/classrooms/environments in education circles during the past few years (One-to-One K-12 Information Resources, Anytime-Anywhere Learning Foundation). The one laptop:one child or one learning device (of some technological kind) per child concept is hotly debated and growing amid the increasing demand for more personalized anywhere-anytime learning for students.
But there is a different kind of 1:1 learning environment – one too often left out of the learning equation – that has been shown to be a major player in helping kids to learn. One caring adult:one child.
Whether it’s reading, learning about insects, or doing math, a caring adult who shares their joy and passion for a subject with a child on a regular basis will indeed instill a love for that subject in the child. I don’t mean a caring teacher with 20 or 30 or 150 students to teach every day. I mean an adult who can give solid one-on-one time to a child to show him or her how much fun it is to read or how cool those bugs’ eyes look or how using math can help you build a really awesome kite to fly! That parent or cousin or grandma or big brother – someone close and caring and accessible.
“There is growing evidence suggesting that an important factor in encouraging reading in children is the presence in the child’s life of an adult who helps the child make connections between text and life.” (Reading Matters, Ross, et. al., 2006) Kids need to see how reading connects to things that matter to them. They need an adult to show them. That little boy who collects every rock and leaf in sight – get a field guide and show him how to use it to ID those rocks and leaves. That little girl who loves to sing for everyone -show her some sheet music and how the words and notes work together on the page or let her read lyrics and try to write her own.
The same is true for teaching kids to care for the environment. It has long been established that being taken outdoors for a positive experience by a close caring adult will contribute to a child later taking action to care for the environment. In her 1964 essay, “The Sense of Wonder”, Rachel Carson wrote: “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in“.
So, the next time you hear or read about 1:1 learning, think about the power of One adult: One child. How can we make sure kids are getting the adult mentoring they need – to become readers, to become scientists, to become problem-solvers and mathematicians? What can schools, families, communities do differently to ensure every child has at least one adult who will give them the needed one-to-one time for learning about their world, outside of school? What is being done that is working?
And while you’re thinking about that…check out this very cool cross-generational contest where kid-adult pairs were challenged to create photos, essays, poetry, and mixed media projects that express their “sense of wonder”. It’s an awesome challenge – a great way to join generations together to engage in observation and creativity. Would a similar project work at your school, in your district?